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Why did GlassPoint go belly up?
The oil industry use energy to get energy. Glasspoint received more than $130M in VC from Oman’s sovereign wealth fund, along with the venture arm of Royal Dutch Shell. The plan was to use concentrated solar arrays housed in glass greenhouses to produce steam at gigawatt scale instead of natural gas for EOR. A major factor was the technology needs to be wind proof - this increased the cost significantly. Overall the projected costed 600 million dollars and up. Definitely the right project to go, but it was too much money needed in bad economic times.
In 2015, Petroleum Development Oman, the largest producer of oil and gas in Oman, and GlassPoint announced a $600 million deal for the 1,021-megawatt “Miraah” project to coax viscous oil from Oman’s Amal oil field.
The company was going to use concentrated solar arrays housed in glass greenhouses to produce steam at gigawatt scale instead of using natural gas.
Oil field operators already use vast amounts of natural gas to generate steam to draw difficult-to-access oil from depleted wells via thermal EOR. This technique has been used for decades in depleted wells ranging from Middle East oil fields to Kern County, California.
The oil business uses a lot of energy to make energy. A previous GlassPoint CEO pointed out that oil companies are “heating a cubic mile of earth,” — by burning gas to create steam. The 1.7 quadrillion Btu of gas used to power thermal EOR “could power six of the largest states.”
GlassPoint’s greenhouse-enclosed parabolic solar troughs use mirrors to focus sunlight on a tube containing water, yielding high-pressure steam, which is injected into an oil reservoir to heat heavy oil. The greenhouse shields the mirrors from the desert elements, and an automated washing system cleans the glass. One of the cost drivers in a traditional concentrated solar power (CSP) project is building the system to withstand wind — strong foundations require more steel and concrete. GlassPoint’s CSP system allowed for cheaper, thinner mirrors and “half the amount of steel and aluminum” of an outdoor solar field, according to the company.
But, in 2019 Glasspoint had to retreat from its plans for an enormous 770-acre Aera Energy Belridge Solar Project west in Kern county because of lack of financing to begin construction.
There were a series of bridge loans, a do-or-die financing package, debt defaults, technical issues and delays on the Oman project. A financing round was closed with fewer investors and onerous terms.
Last month, CEO Steven Moss sent an email to all Glasspoint employees. Here is an excerpt.